Before you register your domain name, it’s important to know a thing or two about well-optimised domains. By well-optimised we mean that your domain should be easily searchable, and that your customers should have no issues finding your site.

We suggest choosing a domain name that doesn’t include hard to spell words, special characters and – in most cases – hyphens. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the best practices for hyphens in domain names, and run through any instances where it might actually be beneficial to use them.

Are hyphens allowed in domain names?

Hyphens (also known as dashes) are the only acceptable spacing character that can be included in a domain name, although they can’t be used at the start or end of a domain. But it’s still a hot topic as to whether or not they should be used, and if their use has any impact on SEO (search engine optimisation).

Can hyphens in domain names affect SEO?

The simple answer is no. According to former Google employee Matt Cutts, the search engine’s algorithm doesn’t penalise sites with hyphens in their domain names. In fact, hyphens are considered preferable over alternative spacing characters like underscores. This claim has been reinforced by Google’s John Mueller, who made the following comment: “I don’t think anything in our algorithms looks specifically for hyphens in domain names”.

This gives us pretty good evidence that adding a hyphen to your domain isn’t a problem for SEO. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that your domain name doesn’t have an impact on SEO at all. For more information about choosing an SEO-friendly domain name, take a look at our helpful guide.

But even though hyphens aren’t technically detrimental, there are several other compelling reasons to avoid them, like memorability, branding and more.

Things to consider when choosing your domain name

Hyphens generally decrease how memorable your URL is at a glance. This can mean potential visitors end up going somewhere else, just because they forgot to add in that pesky hyphen.

This opens the door to potential typosquatters looking to benefit from your visitors’ mistakes. Typosquatters are a type of cybercriminal that take advantage of commonly misspelt domains by registering slight variations – such as your domain name without the hyphen. This can be done for a number of reasons, including:

  • Taking your branding or trademark so they can sell it back to you at a grossly inflated price.
  • Monetising your web traffic by bombarding redirected customers with ads and affiliate links.
  • Taking your customers to a fake website where they can steal their personal information or infect their devices with malware.

Due to the greater risk of typos when incorporating easy-to-miss special characters, putting a hyphen in your domain name can make you more vulnerable to typosquatting. To get all of your site visitors to the right place, it’s best to opt for a simple and memorable domain that doesn’t include special characters. Domain names that are simple to pronounce are – by default – easier to remember, so it’s worth sounding out your different options and thinking about which might be the simplest to type.

2. Number of characters

There’s no technical drawback to a longer domain name, but the statistics speak for themselves. Of the five most popular websites in the world, the average domain length is only six characters, so the evidence suggests that the briefer the domain name, the better. This certainly makes sense when you consider that shorter domain names should be easier to remember and type correctly. Depending on the project, a hyphen might add unnecessary length to your domain name, so it’s worth trying out both variations.

3. Is it brand-friendly?

The other risk of putting hyphens in your domain name is that it could compromise the credibility of your brand, or be interpreted as spammy. Hyphens between words are sometimes used by cybercriminals as a means of imitating an official website with a similar domain name or email address. It’s ultimately a judgement call, but remember: avoiding a negative perception of your brand is just as important as memorability.

4. Consider communication

Putting hyphens in your domain name might impact customers when they go to search for your site, but what about the customers who hear about your business via word of mouth? Using Coca-Cola as an example, many people forget about the hyphen in the middle because they aren’t easily communicable in daily conversations. So, consider how easy it is for your domain name to be expressed through talking, as this may impact your site’s searchability.

When should you use a hyphen in a domain name?

1. For readability

If your brand or project name consists of several consecutive words, including a hyphen could actually improve the readability of your domain. Similarly, if your brand name already features a hyphen, including one in your URL is good for consistency. In addition, if you’re using words that naturally include a hyphen, you can ensure consistency and memorability by keeping the hyphen there.

On top of this, some words – when put side by side – take on a different meaning, and you can easily avoid this by separating them with a dash. This can be more common in other languages like German, where putting words together with no space between them can create a new word with a different meaning. Therefore, if you’re registering a domain name in another language, you may find that using a hyphen becomes necessary to avoid confusion.

Finally, you should also consider local businesses and traditional advertising. Local businesses typically do a lot of advertising in local newspapers and billboards, often with a hyphen between the business name and location for readability from a distance. To reduce the risk of confusion, it may be best to keep this hyphen in the domain name for consistency.

2. Defensive domain registration

Another scenario where it might be beneficial to buy a domain with a hyphen is if you’re practising defensive domain registration. This is when you intentionally purchase different variations of a website’s main domain name to stop competitors from buying them. As a result, you prevent your competitors getting wayward traffic from visitors that were aiming for your site.

So if your project website was, you might also buy to block similar brands from getting their hands on this domain first!

In addition to outsmarting your competition, it’s also a good idea to register domain name typos to thwart typosquatters. If your domain name includes multiple words, you should register versions with hyphens between the words since this may be a common mistake that some customers make. If you don’t register these domain variations, typosquatters could get there first and hold your brand hostage – or even worse, they could take unsuspecting customers to a fake website and steal their data.

3. Domain availability

Thought of the perfect domain name but it’s already taken? You may be able to still get the branding you want by adding a hyphen to this domain.

However, you should be very careful with this tactic. If you buy a domain name that’s identical to another company’s domain except for an added hyphen, they may think you’re typosquatting. Therefore, if you’re going to register a very similar domain to an existing one, you should first check whether the existing domain is linked to an actual website.

The bottom line is, using hyphens in domain names is generally worth avoiding. Even if they won’t explicitly impact your site’s SEO, they could have a negative effect on memorability or the perception of your brand if used incorrectly.

Not sure if the domain name you’re looking for is available? You’ll quickly find out with our handy domain name search tool. We’ve registered over 1.2 million domains in our time, so feel free to get in touch with any questions – our sales team will be happy to help.